A TRUE VOICE OF A TRUE REMNANT: MAREK EDELMAN AND THE GHETTO FIGHTERS
It was in reading about the courage of the leaders of the Ghetto Uprising--of Marek Edelmann, of Mordechai Anielewicz, of Zivia Lubetkin, and those who decided, in the face of utter, overwhelming odds, to stand up to evil and to fight back against the extermination of their people--that I first learned the true meaning of human evil, and too: the true meaning of human courage.
Their story bears recounting. It is as great a story as any in the Old Testament; indeed, its heroes bear remembrance in the same ranks as Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Samson.
It was an honorable fight--more one-sided than Thermopylae, and against an enemy more to be feared even than the dread Xerxes.
This is good. If Israel is to survive then Israel must be strong. And none were stronger than the Ghetto fighter survivors. Today, Lubetkin's granddaughter is the first female fighter pilot in Israel.
But one man chose to remain in Poland, the last voice of the Polish Jewish community, now a tiny band of 4000 people where once they had been three million.
Edelman's courage during the Uprising was exemplary. But it was his long, lonely stand for human freedom under the Communists where he truly showed his great worth.
He chose a medical career, becoming a cardiologist. Later, he became a spokesman for freedom, and was active in the Solidarity labor movement that eventually pitched the Communists. The Soviets feared him so much that they interned him in 1981 during the Communist suppression of the union movement. Later he served in the Polish Parliament, and he was awarded Poland's highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle, in 1998.
He was not without controversy. In the late 1990s he wrote a letter that outraged many in Israel, where he stated his support for the Palestinian Intifada. I think he was wrong in this, as the motivation of those fighting the Intifada and those who fought the Nazis in the Ghetto were radically different; and it is likely that he showed poor judgment in doing so. Nevertheless, it is the privilege and the curse of old soldiers to equate the struggles that they fought in the past in glory with present struggles fought in a fog.
But one other thing should be noted here: Edelman was truly unique in a profound sense among all those I have profiled here.
Many of the others in our group presented here are members of the Remnant--but the Remnant itself is a metaphor for an underlying truth.
But in Mr. Edelman's case, it is the most horrifying literal reality.
Once the children of Israel were three million strong in Poland alone.
Today they are but a scattered few in that sad nation.
No better representative could have been chosen for them, though, than Marek Edelman: soldier, doctor, healer, resister of Nazis, resister of Communists, and at the end of his life, numbered among the great of his peoples, both the Poles among whom he was born and the Jews to whom he was a shining example.